MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s all hands on deck the past couple of weeks at the Blount County Animal Center. Animal control officers seized more than 60 cats from a rescue where officials say the cats were living in filthy conditions.

“It’s very heartbreaking especially because there are so many of them,” said Wendy Lemons, the cattery manager at the animal center.

Right now, Lemons and her team are on a mission to keep these cats alive. 

“There’s been quite a few that have had a lot of upper respiratory problems,” she said. “We’ve had to use (vitamin) B12, fluids, a lot of them are dehydrated. We ended up having put some of them in the oxygen chamber to try and help them get better.”

Lemons says the staff had to create a separate room at the animal center to keep the recently rescued cats isolated from ones up for adoption. Unfortunately, five of the rescued cats did not survive.

“You don’t want to see any animal suffering especially if they have (goopy) eyes, and they’re having a hard time breathing or just laying there. Just lethargic, it’s not OK,” she said.

According to Blount County Animal Center Director Charles Rafford, the cats were taken away from the Kitty Kamp rescue in the Alnwick Community Center. He says several people complained about the strong stench coming from Suite F.

“Apparently, she lost her lease,” Rafford said of the suite owner. “She was on a month-to-month lease with the building and lost the lease. And we were notified of that, so we got involved at that point in time because she didn’t have a plan for the cats that she had at her rescue.”

Rafford describes the scene at Kitty Kamp as very rough and overcrowded with free-range cats in one large room. 

“I don’t think this was done maliciously at all,” Rafford said. “I think that this was a situation that started out with the goal in mind of helping cats find homes and snowballed to the point where there were just too many cats for one individual to take care of.”

Rafford reports the cats were taken from the Kitty Kamp rescue in mid-January and finished picking them up Jan. 31. The pickup had to be staggered due to limited space at the animal center. Typically, the capacity for cats at the center is 42 but now there are nearly 90. 

“This has been physically and mentally draining on myself and staff,” Lemons said. “Especially the vetting staff. It’s financially draining because of the medicines and medications. It takes almost an hour and a half every day to do the medications just for these cats. We also have to do sulfur lime dips because of the ringworm.”

“It was a business, a rescue,” Rafford said. “Typically rescues or animal shelters or centers have numerous animals so typically when I think of a hoarding situation I think of an individual in their home with large numbers of animals or large numbers of possessions or whatever the case may be. This was more of a business situation that got out of hand.”

He added to his knowledge, the director of Kitty Kamp is not facing any charges.